pregnancy

BODY IMAGE DURING PREGNANCY

I wanted to talk about something that’s been top of mind for me. (I know I’m talking about pregnancy a lot lately. But it’s become just such a huge part of my everyday life, it’s hard to ignore!)

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve always dreamed of being a mom. I knew from an early, early age that I wanted children in some capacity. However, it wasn’t until I was actually pregnant though that I realized that my dreams of motherhood always started with a child in my arms. I had truly never considered the pregnancy portion of the journey.

To be completely honest, I think the idea of pregnancy always freaked me out a little, too. Well, once I was pregnant, I felt like I was on a rollercoaster I wasn’t prepared for at all. Everything felt foreign…. including my body.

BODY IMAGE DURING PREGNANCY

BODY IMAGE DURING PREGNANCY

Long before pregnancy was even on my radar, it took me a very, very long time to get comfortable in my own skin. Learning how to work out in my mid-twenties was the first time when I started to feel a (positive) shift in my body confidence. I was a lanky, uncoordinated kid and then an unconfident, anxious teen and then an overworked, undernourished young adult. It took me years to feel confident, even sexy, in my body and I found that by working out regularly in the gym. The strength– and endorphins– helped me feel like my best self. It had nothing to do with how I looked and all about how I felt.

Then last year, I struggled with my weight due to intense anxiety related to the pandemic. I felt like I was eating normally enough and I was channeling my anxious energy into workouts. But while I continued to remain strong, I struggled to keep weight on. And, despite my best efforts, dropped to the lowest weight I had ever been in my adult life.

After I went to my first OBGYN appointment for pregnancy, I almost immediately gained weight, which my doctors all agreed was both normal and healthy to play catch up and prepare my body to nourish a baby. But the real difficulty for me was feeling so weak from the morning sickness and not being able to work out as intensely as I was used to. Quickly, I realized that working out was not only a way for me to stay physically healthy, but I drew a lot of mental health positivity from it as well.

I also drew self-confidence from pushing myself through difficult and challenging workouts.

Without it, I started to lose my sense of self, honestly, and then, on top of that, I was witnessing physical changes in my body on a daily basis. Every morning brought something new. My jeans not buttoning one day, a new stretch mark on my breast, a darkening around my belly button, my face changing shape.

I’ve always struggled with control issues and this specific lack of control over my body was a lot. (To be transparent, I restarted therapy for many reasons regarding the pregnancy, and this was a big one naturally.) It felt quite akin to going through puberty, which was a challenging time for me for various reasons, and that brought up a lot of tough memories and feelings. I kept having to remind myself that I was not a teenager anymore. That I was a different person and way, way, way more equipped to deal with these changes– to put it very simply.

Additionally, there’s also something horrible about going through this publicly and I don’t just mean walking around in public where I have felt a bit more on display than usual. But having strangers on the internet anonymously send DMs about how they have popcorn ready for the “whale watch” or just commenting with one word ziggers (“gross.”). I wanted to, quite literally, hide.

Over time, something magical happened though.

My body, while still undergoing daily changes, didn’t feel as foreign. I was able to reframe a lot of my hang ups as things of beauty and strength, instead of acts of defiance. After all, the changes my body has been undergoing has been to grow a human. Every time I feel him roll around or kick me, I think about how my body will forever be his first home.

I still have moments where I feel incredibly ugly or where I don’t recognize myself in the mirror, but overall? I look at my body now with awe. I’ve been trying to catch what I say about myself in my head and reframe it into something positive. Instead of nitpicking flaws and differences, I express gratitude for what my body is doing. I block anyone who sends a negative message or comment– and say a silent prayer for them because I feel like they need it. I also have started doing self-belly massages. And I swear it’s helped me feel more connected to the baby (and way more comfortable with how my bump looks and feels). I try to examine my body in the mirror to familiarize myself with its newness– its shapes, its curves.

The other day I got out of the shower and I was so…. mesmerized by my body, in a way I had never felt before.

Even in my best shape when I felt peak confidence and peak strength, I had never felt this deep, deep love and appreciation for my body. Maybe this shouldn’t be admitted on the internet, but I thought to myself, “I want to remember how I feel right now forever.” And you know what I did? I set up a tripod and snapped a few photos. I did it for no one but myself. And I can’t even describe why I felt such a strong pull to do so. Uploading them into a (very password protected) file (lol), I was able to see myself and my body in such a beautiful, meaningful way. Even more so than what I saw in the mirror that morning.

I’m sure this topic of body image will continue to evolve as I deliver my son, go through more pregnancies (should we choose to), and as I generally age. This is just one portion of what will hopefully be a long life in my body. I do just find it so intriguing that what had felt so foreign to me a few months ago would blossom into me feeling the most beautiful I have ever felt.

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27 Comments

Willow

I cannot believe people say such awful things. I wish you could see how you look to others-lovely, serene and radiant. I wish you all the very best at such an exciting (if occasionally daunting!) time.

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Carly

I’ve always silently been like “why so pregnant women take naked photo shoots?!” Thank you for putting it in a different perspective for me. Wishing you a safe and healthy delivery soon!

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Kassandra

This was a much needed post for me to read – thank you! I’m currently 18 weeks pregnant with twins as a first time Mom, and the weight gain/body changes have not been easy on my mind. I continue to appreciate your honesty and realness because there are so many aspects I can relate to ❤️

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Coralys

Such positivity! Our bodies are so powerful, I cant wait for the day til I go thru this journey myself.

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Kelli

I came across this poem (by Nayyirah Waheed) when I was pregnant with my son and it meant so much to me. Thank you for being so open and honest!
my
mother
was
my first country.
the first place i ever lived.
— lands

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Sarah

I’m sorry that anyone is mean to you about your body! I had one person in my life give some mean comments during this pregnancy and I just had to realize it said a lot more about them than me. I have an eating disorder history, so I was very concerned about how I would do during the pregnancy, but sometime around 20 weeks I began to settle in and accept the changes as part of this amazing process that will bring me a new person to love. I have the rest of my life to “get my body back” or (more likely) adapt to a newer shape. The thing that help me the most was when my therapist asked, “are you freaking out because it’s bad, or because it’s different?” Realizing that any growth that came from this gift couldn’t possibly be bad has made it so much easier to reframe-I’m reacting to differences and I can get used to them! (Plus they’re temporary!) Thank you for this honest post.

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Ami

People can be so mean. But it is only the ugliness in their own heads and hearts that they project out on the world, unaware that it is all in themselves.

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Sarah R

I relate to this post so much as someone who has undergone body changes (not through pregnancy but otherwise). I really appreciate your vulnerability in sharing this!

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Catherine

Love this. Thanks for sharing. I’m almost 5 weeks postpartum and feeling some similar feelings so it’s always nice to hear from other women in the same boat!

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Meg

What a beautiful post! It seems like you’re in a really good place! After I had my daughter, I kept reminding myself that my body worked hard for 9 months, and it deserved at least nine months to “bounce” back.

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Allison

Your beauty and strength radiate from you. Thank you for letting us share in your journey.

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BGC

I needed this post so bad! I’m currently 18 weeks pregnant. I dropped to my lowest weight last year during the pandemic as well and was told I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant unless I put on weight. I also was in the best shape of my life, running several miles daily, and I was happy being thin and active, delusional as it sounds. I’m really struggling with how much weight I’ve already gained and my little belly. But I do think getting back to working out will help. This gives me hope that it will get better as I advance through pregnancy and will be able to embrace it! Thanks Carly.

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Lorraine Barnes

I think you look proud and serene in your pics lately! Pregnancy is a glow that only a mother can have. I’m happy to hear you have come to terms with the changes your body is going through. After you have the baby, you can exercise with the baby showing him how to live his best life!

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C

Thank you for writing honestly about pregnancy! I am 23 weeks now and have had a similar experience (from the extreme nausea/all day sickness to the feelings surrounding body image). It is nice to know I am not alone!

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Sara

Thank you for sharing this. Pregnancy is so difficult for so many reasons (I have two little ones) and you sharing this will undoubtedly help so many women in the future. It disgusts me to hear of people sending you such hateful comments. I’m sure it is difficult but please, please, tune those people out. You are beautiful!

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Michelle

Thank you for sharing this post! You are already such a great mother! As someone who has gone through two pregnancies, being pregnant was not something I enjoyed. But reminding myself that the changes my body was undergoing (I was growing a person!), helped me get through it.

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Valencia D. Gower

You look great. I always thought you looked great in high school, too. Didn’t know you had trouble keeping the weight on. But now I’m thinking, we have a good friend that lived in Winter Park (same age as you and Aja) and was also on the crew team. She couldn’t keep the weight on either. Had to give it up. That’s one tough sport!!!

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Ashton

So grateful you posted this! I needed to hear it at nearly 26 weeks pregnant. As someone who isn’t going through this publicly, I’ve had people comment on my body regularly- about how I’m too small, they expected me to be bigger, etc. I’m not sure why the world believes women’s bodies are up for discussion, so thank you for reminding me that it doesn’t really matter what “they” say. All that matters is how I feel.

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Stephanie

Carly, it has been a joy to very minorly share in this really special time. Thank you for sharing with us.

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Ashley

I love these vulnerable posts, they’re so powerful! It is absolutely an act of defiance to not hide for sad internet bullies, love that too! It makes me nuts to know people are such jerks for no reason, and so cowardly hiding in anonymity! Like, don’t you have enough going on in your own life? Sorry, not productive lol.

Good on you for finding ways to adapt, it’s so interesting how body changes can bring you back to another unsure time in your life. Thanks for still sharing and being so open, this gives me some food for thought thinking about my own physical changes as a I creep up further into my 30s 😆. I think you look fantastic, those dresses are so lovely to show off the beautiful shape of your pregnancy.

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Stephanie

Thank you for sharing this! I hate that you’ve received horrible comments. I feel like that says so much about them as a person, and so little about you. I love seeing your journey, and I feel like you seem more calm, confident and radiant! You’re already an incredible mother, and I’m excited for everything for you. ❤️

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